Thursday, November 11, 2010

New Math

- Tom Lehrer, “New Math”

Le Système International d'Unités (“SI”) or the metric system.  If you lived in the US (or in Myanmar/Burma or Liberia), the metric system is just a bad memory from those wretched years called middle school.  All those meters, grams, liters and the worst offender of them all, celsius.  I’m sure many a school-aged child thinks, “Who made this system, and why the hey should we learn it? There’s a reason why it’s called Imperial measurements in ENGLISH, not, measurements with lots of funny Greek and Latin pre-fixes attached to them.”
            If you do any traveling outside the US (and yes, that also includes Canada and Mexico), the metric system is the way to go.  But even US ex-pats traveling for decades can’t quite get over that metric hump.  In a globalized world, it seems rather silly that we have one set of measurements for the US, and another for the rest of the world.  American exceptionalism, once again, strikes its ugly head.
            After getting a couple of emails, I realized I was guilty of this as well.  The US is 4.45% of the world’s population, and yet I was writing recipes as if Americans (can’t forget the Liberians and Myanmarese?/Burmese) were 99.99% of the world.  To make everyone happy, I am placing a conversion sheet from Imperial to metric for liquids, weights and temperatures.[1]  I will do my best to remember to give metric measurements for future recipes.  I really don’t want to receive another tongue-lashing from the rest of the metric-o-centric universe.

Liquid Measurements: .24 x C = Liters
Cups/Spoons             Quarts/Ounces            Metric Equivalents
4 1/3 c.                        1 qt. 2 oz                       1 liter
4 c.                              1 qt.                               1 liter (minus.946 liter)
2 c.                              17 oz.                            1/2 liter
1 c.                              8 oz.                              1/4 liter
1/3 c. + 1 tbs.              3.381 oz.                       1 deciliter
3 1/3 tbs.                     1.690 oz.                       1/2 deciliter/50 ml
1 tbs.                           1/2 oz.                           15 ml
1 tsp.                           1/16 oz.                         5 ml

Weights: 28.3 x Oz. = Grams
Pounds/Ounces         Metric
2.2 pd.                         1 kg
1.1 pd.                         500 g
1 pd.                            454 g
9 oz.                            250 g
1/2 pd. (8 oz.)              227 g
4 3/8 oz.                      125 g
1/4 pd (4 oz.)               114 g
3 1/2 oz.                      100 g
2 2/3 oz.                      75 g
1 3/4 oz.                      50 g
1 oz.                            30 g
1/2 oz.                         15 g
1/3 oz.                         10 g
1/6 oz.                         5 g

Temperatures: 5(F-32)/9 =  C
Fahrenheit                 Centigrade
50 F                             10 C
75 F                             24 C
100 F                           38 C
122 F                           50 C
212 F                           100 C
225 F.                          107.2 C
250 F                           121 C
275 F                           135 C
300 F                           149 C
325 F                           163 C
350 F                           177 C
375 F                           190 C
400 F                           204.4 C
425 F                           218 C
450 F                           232 C
500 F                           260 C
550 F                           288 C
Note: The measurements above are approximations.  If you really need accuracy, I would use the conversion formulas listed above.

[1] The French institutionalized the metric system in the late 18th century.  Depending upon your historical and political dispositions, this could mean either Louis XVI or Assemblée nationale constituante. For a nice history of the metric system, read Ken Alders’s The Measure of All Things: The Seven-Year Odyssey and Hidden Error that Transformed the World. Free Press. 2003.

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